Monthly Archives: January 2011

Bill O’Reilly — Flaming, Full-Blown Creationist

We’ve never been impressed with Bill O’Reilly’s knowledge of anything, although he’s been a very successful showman on Fox News Network. But we never realized the extent of his ignorance before. This little video, which lasts less than two minutes, will show you what we mean. The man is a complete ignoramus.

See also: Bill O’Reilly and Richard Dawkins — Again.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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“Pandas” Publisher Withdraws in Texas

Our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) report: Creationist publisher backs down in Texas. Click over there for the whole story. We’ll give you just one excerpt, with bold added by us:

The Foundation for Thought and Ethics is not going to submit supplementary biology materials for approval by the Texas state of board of education after all, according to a January 31, 2011, post on the blog of the Texas Freedom Network. A list of vendors released by the Texas Education Agency on January 20, 2011, included FTE, which is perhaps best known as the publisher of Of Pandas and People, the “intelligent design” creationism textbook at the center of the Kitzmiller v. Dover case in 2005.

That publisher’s book played a central role in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. The link we just gave is to an informative Wikipedia article about the case, but for this post we’ll quote from the decision itself, which is archived here at NCSE’s website (139 page pdf file). This is the relevant portion of Judge Jones’ opinion, with citations and transcript references omitted, and with bold font added by us:

The evidence at trial demonstrates that ID [Intelligent Design] is nothing less than the progeny of creationism. What is likely the strongest evidence supporting the finding of ID’s creationist nature is the history and historical pedigree of the book to which students in Dover’s ninth grade biology class are referred, Pandas [Of Pandas and People]. Pandas is published by an organization called FTE [The Foundation for Thought and Ethics], as noted, whose articles of incorporation and filings with the Internal Revenue Service describe it as a religious, Christian organization. Pandas was written by Dean Kenyon and Percival Davis, both acknowledged creationists, and Nancy Pearcey, a Young Earth Creationist, contributed to the work.

Are you following this? Pandas was the strongest evidence in the whole Kitzmiller trial that convinced Judge Jones to conclude that intelligent design is nothing but re-packaged creationism. And that book’s publisher had the audacity to offer “supplementary biology materials” to be used in Texas science classes. Let’s continue with where we left off in the Kitzmiller opinion:

As Plaintiffs meticulously and effectively presented to the Court, Pandas went through many drafts, several of which were completed prior to and some after the Supreme Court’s decision in Edwards [Edwards v. Aguillard], which held that the Constitution forbids teaching creationism as science. By comparing the pre and post Edwards drafts of Pandas, three astonishing points emerge: (1) the definition for creation science in early drafts is identical to the definition of ID; (2) cognates of the word creation (creationism and creationist), which appeared approximately 150 times were deliberately and systematically replaced with the phrase ID; and (3) the changes occurred shortly after the Supreme Court held that creation science is religious and cannot be taught in public school science classes in Edwards. This word substitution is telling, significant, and reveals that a purposeful change of words was effected without any corresponding change in content, which directly refutes FTE’s argument that by merely disregarding the words “creation” and “creationism,” FTE expressly rejected creationism in Pandas.

In early pre-Edwards drafts of Pandas, the term “creation” was defined as “various forms of life that began abruptly through an intelligent agency with their distinctive features intact – fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc,” the very same way in which ID is defined in the subsequent published versions. This definition was described by many witnesses for both parties, notably including defense experts Minnich and Fuller, as “special creation” of kinds of animals, an inherently religious and creationist concept. Professor Behe’s assertion that this passage was merely a description of appearances in the fossil record is illogical and defies the weight of the evidence that the passage is a conclusion about how life began based upon an interpretation of the fossil record, which is reinforced by the content of drafts of Pandas.

The weight of the evidence clearly demonstrates, as noted, that the systemic change from “creation” to “intelligent design” occurred sometime in 1987, after the Supreme Court’s important Edwards decision. This compelling evidence strongly supports Plaintiffs’ assertion that ID is creationism re-labeled. Importantly, the objective observer, whether adult or child, would conclude from the fact that Pandas posits a master intellect that the intelligent designer is God.

Now you can appreciate the colorful link we often use in connection with the Discovery Institute, when we refer to them as cdesign proponentsists. If you’ve never clicked on that link, this would be the time to do so.

So the good guys have achieved a victory in Texas, in that one creationist publisher won’t be peddling its wares to the State Board of Education. Others will, of course, so the game isn’t over. Far from it.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Hey Casey! Junk DNA Is Still Junk

ape-finger

Some background information is obviously necessary to explain the reason for that picture. Okay, here you go:

Our favorite creationist is Casey Luskin, the only non-fellow among the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

Back in early 2009 Casey was speaking at some creationist revival meeting or something. During a heated exchange with Abbie Smith, which she later described here: Casey Luskin, Abbie flipped a bird at Casey.

Upon experiencing this “Darwinist” atrocity, Casey did the cyber equivalent of bursting into tears and collapsing on the fainting couch. He produced an amazing narrative which appeared on the Discoveroid blog: Civility of Darwinists Lacking at Academic Freedom on Evolution Event in Oklahoma. The picture which adorns this post is our subtle commemoration of that event. (The picture isn’t Abbie, who is lovely; it’s one of your Curmudgeon’s cousins.)

But this post has a greater purpose than reminding you of Casey’s delicate temperament. Most of you are aware of Casey’s Crusade Against Junk DNA. Before posting that, in Discovery Institute: Astounding Stupidity we wrote about Casey’s bold declaration that there’s no such thing as junk DNA because, he says:

[I]ntelligent agents design objects for a purpose, and therefore intelligent design predicts that biological structures will have function.

As we pointed out in our last post on this topic, the Discoveroids have even claimed that the case for Darwinian evolution is literally based on junk DNA. They even invented a new strawman they called “the argument from junk DNA,” a non-existent argument that depends on the non-existent premise that no function will ever be found for any of it. They refer to this fictitious argument as “Darwin of the gaps.”

We’ve also pointed out that it never occurs to Casey to wonder — if junk DNA is potentially so detrimental to “Darwinists,” why do they keep looking to find functions for it? And if they find some function, why do they publish their findings?

Okay, that’s the background for today’s post. Now we present some excerpts from If junk DNA is useful, why is it not shared out more equally?, which appears at the website of the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna. The bold font was added by us:

DNA was originally thought to have a single function: to help cells make the proteins they need. Any DNA that is not immediately required to produce proteins was written off as “junk” and deemed unworthy of study. Recently, however, it has become clear that junk DNA performs a wide range of important tasks. As a result, attention is shifting to asking why some organisms have so much of it and other organisms so little.

That’s a good question. It might help Casey explain why A Japanese Plant Has the World’s Biggest Genome. That plant has a genetic code 50 times longer than that of a human being. The Discoveroids’ mysterious, magical Designer — blessed be He — has a lot of explaining to do. Let’s read on:

A particular puzzle is posed by so-called “introns”, stretches of DNA that interrupt the sequence of genes. Ashley Farlow, Eshwar Meduri and Christian Schlötterer of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna now propose a mechanism to account for the range of intron numbers observed between different species. Their theory is published in the current issue of the journal Trends in Genetics.

Here’s a link to their paper: DNA double-strand break repair and the evolution of intron density . We continue:

It seems likely that new introns are added to DNA when double-stranded DNA breaks – which may arise from a variety of mechanisms – are not repaired “correctly” but the newly created ends are instead joined to other fragments of DNA. Farlow and colleagues at the Institute of Population Genetics of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna reasoned that introns may be lost by a similar mechanism. An examination of areas of DNA where introns are known to have been lost in organisms such as worms and flies provides support for their idea.

So introns are added or lost due to various repairs of breaks in DNA? But why didn’t the researchers mention Casey’s “purposeful tinkering by the Intelligent Designer” theory? Shoddy research, that’s what this is!

There’s no need for us to excerpt much more, or to even try to summarize this material. We’ll give you one more excerpt and then leave it to you to read the entire article, and then the published paper:

The theory represents a fundamental change in the way we think about the evolution of DNA. Evolution has seen periods of large scale intron loss alternating with periods of intron gain and this has been interpreted as the result of changing selection pressure. However, the rates at which single species have gained and lost introns throughout evolution have been found to vary in parallel, consistent with Farlow’s notion that the two processes are related. The new theory provides an alternative interpretation: changes in the activities of the “homologous” and “non-homologous” pathways for repairing DNA breaks could cause introns to be lost faster than they are gained, or vice versa.

We don’t see any way this new theory can compete with Casey’s — but what does your Curmudgeon know? Now that this has been published, we’ll see what the experts have to say. Meanwhile, vast stretches of our genome remain in the category of junk, and may well remain there. Sorry, Casey.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Last Comment from a Banned Coppedge Defender

Yesterday we banned a commenter (“KJAR”) who had been defending David Coppedge, the creationist computer technician recently let go by Jet Propulsion Laboratory in what they said was a downsizing. KJAR’s comments were to this post: Klinghoffer Unleashed to Defend David Coppedge.

His first comment was:

Not one of you has explained exactly what Coppedge did to deserve to be fired from a federal job in the U.S of A. This is not China. God forbid if he were to mention that he was gay or something. I would think that freedom thinkers such as yourself would believe in freedom of speech. Your mockery adds up to one thing: BIGOTRY!

We immediately knew all we needed to know about KJAR, but as we sometimes do (often to our regret), we let let his comment stand. A few of you responded to him, and that must have encouraged him to post a very long comment about how we “shouldn’t feel threatened by contrary views” and how we ought to react when “scientific data is used to question neo-Darwinism.” At that point we banned him and said:

Okay, that’s enough. Goodbye, KJAR.

As often happens after a ban, he tried to comment again — but it was caught in the spam-filter. We’ve always ignored such post-banning comments in the past, but because it’s the weekend and news is scarce, and because this comment is so typical of its type, we decided to break precedent and post it. It’s a good example of what we don’t allow at this blog, so this will give you a hint of what you’ve been missing because of our benevolent oversight. Here it is, rescued from the spam-filter, KJAR’s final comment (presumably to me) in defense of David Coppedge:

Typical response from someone who’s insecure in his/her viewpoint. I’m not a scientist, but science is fascinating to me. I listen to the debates and all the ego, name-calling, foul language from both sides. There’s no respect!

Are you saying that people in a free society should’t be able to have a civilized discussion that express differing views on any subject (or is it just science)? It’s part of being free thinkers, unlike those under a Hitler-like dictatorship. People have differing views on countless subjects and aren’t afraid to talk about them with friends, co-workers, etc.

So there you are, dear reader. We’re insecure in our viewpoint — typical of those who resort to name calling and foul language. We show no respect. This place is a Hitler-like dictatorship.

And as it was with our banned visitor, so it must have been with David Coppedge. No respect! No freedom! Bigotry! Insecurity! Hitler!

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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